AJAs 2018 Finalists


Date Aired or Published May 10, 2018
Media outlet where first aired or published: APTN
Name of Program: APTN National News
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Halifax, NS
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio): 7:05 and 7:51

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

You get a press release about a Metis cultural event somewhere in Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, and you go cover it. It’s an easy, feel-good story. But who are the Eastern Metis — or, in Nova Scotia, the Acadian-Metis? In the post-Joseph Boyden era questions about Indigeneity and the relationship between colonization, assimilation and identity have permeated mainstream thought. And for good reason. If all Canadians with some Indigenous ancestry were granted Aboriginal status by the federal government based on the criteria used by dozens of self-identified Metis groups in Eastern Canada, there would suddenly be upward of 10 million new Aboriginal people. That’s according to Dr. Darryl Leroux, one of the academics leading new research into the proliferation of self-identified Metis in Eastern Canada. The staggering numbers of newly self-identified Metis in Quebec and the Atlantic region aren’t brand new, at least in terms of our daily, monthly and annual news cycles. But APTN National News’ two-part feature on the Acadian Metis has helped bring this crucial issue to the fore. Though they often fly under the public’s radar, there are numerous ongoing legal challenges to have communities in Eastern Canada recognized as Metis communities. What do the numbers and court cases mean for Metis and Mi’kmaq self-determination, rights and sovereignty? Though we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg on the broader issue of what Leroux and others call “race-shifting” as a new form of colonization, APTN thought it was important to begin with this segment of the self-identified Eastern Metis population in rural Nova Scotia. We traveled from Halifax to Cheticamp, Cape Breton to track down the non-Indigenous hunter who opposed Mi’kmaq hunting rights months before co-founding a new self-identified Aboriginal group called the Highlands Metis Nation. I knocked on doors in the community and eventually found the father of that group’s chief (the chief would not do an interview with us), who revealed in an interview that his Metis identity serves as a placeholder of his Indigeneity on the way to becoming Mi’kmaw. The idea of Metis as a mix of Indigenous and European blood has dominated public narratives to the point that thousands of people with First Nations ancestry, often dating back hundreds of years, are now claiming to be Metis — and therefore Indigenous. The Metis National Council and Assembly of N.S. Mi’kmaq Chiefs recently said this phenomenon represents a threat to their sovereignty. I spent weeks talking to researchers—and reading their work—and members of the Mi’kmaq and Metis Nations about this social and political phenomenon before hitting the road for Cape Breton and communities in the western part of the province. When we reached out to members of the self-identified Metis communities, we kept getting referred to Halifax lawyer Daphne Williamson, who spoke eloquently on behalf of seven Acadian-Metis groups about the reasons why they feel justified in claiming Metis identity. The issue of identity is deeply personal, controversial and divisive. We presented the strongest points of Williamson’s case, gave those who stand to be impacted by the Eastern Metis an opportunity to respond, and explored nuances of the issue that, to our knowledge, had not been explored to that point in time by a national daily news program. I sent questions to a team member in our Montreal bureau, who conducted the on-camera interview with Darryl Leroux. Similarly, in order to get Mi’kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater on camera, we had to send a cameraperson from Toronto to Ajax, Ont. to interview the renowned author and academic in her home. After a cameraperson fell ill on the day we were scheduled to travel to western Nova Scotia, I went solo and used my iPhone to shoot the interview with Alex McDonald, who took a break from adulating lobster traps to come ashore for the interview. I also used my iPhone to shoot b-roll for the stories. In the week it took to edit the pieces we received a constant stream of requests for updates from people interviewed for the story. They wanted to know when it was going to air. As did a slew of people on social media, who’d heard we were investigating the issue of proliferating self-identified Metis in Nova Scotia. It’s my feeling that our story contributed to a more public dialogue around the issue of Indigeneity and Metis and Mi’kmaq self-determination and sovereignty. Importantly though, this story is only beginning to be told. The two TV stories and an accompanying web story are brought together on this single page: https://aptnnews.ca/2018/05/10/proliferation-of-self-identified-indigenous-people-represents-new-wave-of-colonialism/

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

2 weeks 3,000

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